It’s a whole new world out there as Exxaro launches its digital mine, a first for the country

Exxaro took a group of journalists to its newly digitalised mine in Belfast, Mpumalanga, in order to highlight its commitment to contributing to the growth and economic development of the country. Currently sitting on 30% black empowerment, it describes itself as a company which is serious about black empowerment.

Alongside the SA Investment Conference (SAIC), the launch focused on outlining Exxaro’s commitment to staff well-being and social upliftment. Among other inroads made for employees, more than 5% of payroll was spent on training and development and R935 million was spent on community development in the past 10 years, benefiting 20 000 people.

Exxaro committed R20 billion to developing its production portfolio, enabling it to showcase its current and future investments and motivate the private sector to join in and support the Presidents Investment Drive to raise $100 billion in five years. The guests who attended the event had an opportunity to experience the head office (called the conneXXion) and to see the Belfast digital and connected mine.

Mxolisi Mgojo, CEO of Exxaro, says partnerships with government and other key stakeholders could play a vital role in achieving transformation in SA’s socio-economic landscape.

“Our R20 billion investment between 2018 and 2023 is testament to our purpose, as it’s about co-creating solutions with government to complex social and economic challenges facing our country,” he adds.

Yunus Hoosen, CEO of InvestSA, says organisations such as Exxaro – which continue to invest in SA – should teach more domestic companies to invest in the country and play their part in moving it forward. He also emphasised the need to attract more investments, as government did by convening the second SA Investment Conference, “Accelerating Economic Growth by Building Partnerships”, which ran from 5-7 November 2019 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

Exxaro showcased the “middle eye”, a computerised device that can monitor activities at different mines and enable immediate action by management from the office without having to drive to the mine. It also enables users to email or call mine staff, should there be any concerns. According to Mgojo, production has been at its maximum since the use of the middle eye, as management is able to make decisions quicker.

Exxaro is moving ahead with its growth ambitions by injecting approximately R10 billion into expansion projects in the Lephalale region, where the flagship Grootegeluk operation is located, and another R10 billion in the Mpumalanga area, where the remainder of its mines are situated.

The new mine, located approximately 10km south-west of Belfast on the southern side of the N4 highway, is the first of its kind in the country to have a “digital twin”.

Bram van Stelten, Exxaro’s Regional General Manager in Mpumalanga, says: “We in SA can be compared with the best in the world, if we utilise the technology available to us and apply it to ourselves, to business and to communities, as they’re part of our process. We’ve spent close to R3 billion and the plan is to spend R3,3 billion. We’re aiming to make about 25% improvements and see that as a return.”